Radical Forgiveness – Live It!

The Radical Forgiveness Series
  • Forgiveness can be a difficult subject for many of us. We can find it hard to forgive others for things they have done to us. When it comes to our own past mistakes and failures, we can find it hard to forgive ourselves or to grasp that God forgives us completely. It’s easy for American Christians to forget how Jesus said His followers would actually live, and what their new counter-cultural lifestyle would actually look like. We hope that this Series helps you engage and live in freedom as we take a look at what the Bible has to say about radical forgiveness.
3. Radical Forgiveness – Live It! (Colossians 3:1-17)
  • Forgiveness isn't just once in a while, it's all the while!.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • When you become a child of God in Christ, your life is changed, and that change necessitates a change in how you live every day. (Colossians 3:1-3)
  • As a child of God you must put the old life “to death.” (Colossians 3:5, 7 & 8)
  • As a child of God, you must put on the new life, including living a life of forgiveness. (Colossians 3:12 & 13)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • How has your total perspective of life changed now that you are a follower of Jesus?
  • What do yo need to do to put the old life to death?
  • What do you need to do to put on the new life?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • What does it mean to be “raised with Christ?”
  • What are the “things above” that we are to seek?
  • What does it mean to set your mind on things above?
  • What does it mean to be “hidden with Christ in God?”
  • Why must we put the old life to death?
  • Of what does the old life consist? What kinds of actions? What kinds of thoughts and attitudes?
  • Why is it important not to lie to one another?
  • What does it mean to be renewed in knowledge after the image of your creator? How are you being renewed?
  • Describe in your own words how you are to live now that you are in Christ? How are you to live in relation to other people?
  • What does it mean to forgive other people? How can you do that, and why must you do that?
  • The peace of Christ is to rule in your heart. What does that mean in your life? How does that work out on a daily basis?
  • Why is it important to be thankful?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • How can you seek the things that are above on a daily basis?
  • What does it mean for you to set your mind on things above? What changes do you have to make in your life to accomplish that?
  • What aspects of the “old life” do you still hang on to? Do you struggle with? Why do you still hold on to those things and why are they bad?
  • In what ways do your thought life and your speech still reflect the old life?
  • What changes do you need to make in your thought life and your speech? In other words, what old habits do you need to “put away?”
  • What is it about lying that undercuts the life of the community and your relationship with others?
  • How can you put on the qualities listed in Colossians 3:12 & 13? How can you forgive others, and why should you?
  • How can peace “rule” in your heart? And how can that lead you in all your decisions, actions and attitudes?
  • Does the word of Christ dwell in you richly? How can you make that happen and are you willing to take those steps?
  • Are you a thankful person? Why should you be thankful, and what steps can you take to be more thankful?
  • You are to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus. What does this mean for you on an every day, practical level? What steps might you need to take to live out Colossians 3:17? Are you willing to take those steps? If you are, stop right now and ask God to help you in taking those steps.
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
We have learned that if you accept Jesus' offer of forgiveness by repenting and believing in His death in place of yours, you will be transformed just like the woman in Luke 7 was. And that transformation will enable, empower, and compel you to give love and forgiveness back out in response to what Jesus has done for you. But in these Notes, the last in the Radical Forgiveness Series, we answer the next question, namely, how is one to live a life of forgiveness? And the answer is found in Colossians 3 which, more broadly, describes the entirety of the new life in Christ.

The fact of the matter is that when one comes to faith in Jesus Christ, he or she is literally transformed.  The believer is reborn (John 3:3-8), made into a new creation (Romans 6:4; II Corinthians 5:17), given a new life (Romans 6:6 & 7), and as a result takes on the righteousness of Christ (Romans 5:17 & 19) and is henceforth alive to God (Romans 6:11; Ephesians 2:4 & 5). One's “status” with God, one's “position,” is changed from rebellion, rejection and being under God's wrath, to obedience, acceptance and being under God's grace; and there is nothing that can change that position going forward (Romans 8:38 & 39). The Christian life, then, is appropriating into practice the position that one has in Christ; it is working out in experience and lifestyle the new life that one has in Christ; it is shedding the old life that was put to death with Christ on the cross, and putting on the new life of Christlikeness. The Scripture calls this “sanctification,” and it is the process of being made holy, or being set apart to God while on earth. And our sanctification is as much our responsibility as it is the Holy Spirit working in us (Philippians 2:12 & 13). In other words, we are not just to sit around and expect God to change how we act, think and relate; instead, we are to take part in the process, intentionally and purposefully (Colossians 3:1 & 2), knowing that God will in fact be working in us to produce Christlikeness (Philippians 2:13).

All of this process of sanctification derives from the reality that as followers of Jesus, we have been made new and are expected to become what we are. That's what Colossians 3 verses 1 through 3 tell us: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek ...” and “Set your minds on things above … for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” “Hidden with Christ” means that we have given up self for His Lordship, and have “died to the elemental spirits of the world.” (Colossians 2:20); we are in union with Christ now, with His death and resurrection (Romans 6:5-11), and in Him we have the motivation and the power to take on and live out the transformed life. Accordingly, this Colossians text contains a series of injunctions for us to follow: “seek the things ...” (Colossians 3:1); “set your minds ...” (Colossians 3:2); “put to death ...” (Colossians 3:5); “put them all away ...” (Colossians 3:8); “do not ...” (Colossians 3:9); “put off ...” (Colossians 3:9b); “put on ...” (Colossians 3:10, 12 & 14); “let ...” (Colossians 3:15 & 16); and “do ...” (Colossians 3:17). If you get the impression that we are called to work hard, you are right. All of these injunctions are strong words in the original Greek text, calling for intense, purposeful action and effort in an on-going, continual way (e.g., “keep on seeking ...” or “keep on putting on ...” etc.)

The over-arching theme in the foregoing is that our allegiance to Jesus and following Him and being like Him is to take precedence over all over allegiances. One commentator writes that we are to see to it “that the bent of the inner nature, the governing tendency of thought and will is toward God.” Hence, “put to death” in verse 5 means just that; we are to kill off, wipe out, or exterminate in a decisive and urgent way those things that are sinful and not of God. Another commentator writes that the approach is “a vigorous, painful act of self determination” when it comes to digging and rooting out the old, sinful ways of our past life, of our old, earthly and selfish focus. The text lists some of those old, sinful behaviors. The listings are not meant to be exhaustive, but representative, and they include sexual sins, uncontrolled desire, violent emotions, unchecked desire for self interest and things (Colossians 3:5), as well as anger, speech that cuts the reputation of others, and abusive, filthy speech (Colossians 3:8). These old, sinful ways incur God's judgment (Colossians 3:6), and although they characterized in one degree or another our behavior before Christ, they are to be intentionally cast away and killed off. This can be a painful process, as we are used to the old ways. But they are no longer acceptable in God's sight. That is Jesus' point when He said, “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” (Matthew 5:30) In 2003, Aron Ralston, an experienced climber and adventurer, was hiking in a rock canyon Utah when an 800 pound boulder dislodged and pinned his arm to the rock wall in the “canyon slot” he was in at the time. He could not get his arm loose no matter what he tried. On his fifth day being trapped, he concluded he would have to cut off his arm or he would die, so he proceeded to do just that, first breaking the bones, then using a dull utility tool to cut the flesh, muscles and tendons. Once freed, he had to climb out of the canyon and rappel one-handed down a 65 foot cliff and walk to help. He made it, albeit without his right arm; but he was alive. Aron Ralston took drastic action to save his life. So the believer; we must take drastic action to cut out and put to death those old sins and habits and ways of living that are antithetical to the way of Jesus, even if it means significant pain in the process.

But the new life in Christ is not merely stripping away the old; the transformation includes putting on the new self which is “being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:10) And what is it that we put on? It is the qualities, characteristics and habits of new life that reflect Godliness, and that respond to the fact that God has chosen us, set us apart and loved us (Colossians 3:12). And these include compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another and (you thought we'd never get there) forgiveness (Colossians 3:12 & 13). The foregoing are all born out of love (Colossians 3:14) and in particular, are exercised in the context of others, especially the community of faith (Colossians 3:13 & 14). The foregoing look to others first, place others before self, freely extend grace, issue out of and reflect thankfulness to God, rule our lives, and most of all, represent Christ (Colossians 3:17). While it is only one action in the list of many, forgiveness has a special place as it results from the fact that we were forgiven by Jesus and therefore have the specific responsibility to turn around and extend forgiveness to others (Colossians 3:13). Forgiveness thus is to be given to those who, like us, are not deserving, and is to be given from a place which recognizes that we still sin and offend and need forgiveness from others (cf. Matthew 5:23 & 24; Ephesians 4:32; James 5:16). When we forgive others, we deal with sin in the sense that by forgiving, we remove the sin of another as it relates to us, and restore the relationship. And we can do that not because we can forgive sin as such, but because Jesus has already died for sin and removed it and we extend His act to others in our act of forgiving. Our forgiveness therefore sets sin aside and puts it away, and in so doing sets the other person free from the bondage of sin and cancels out the sin-debt paid for by Jesus. Our forgiveness also frees us from the bondage of wanting a price to be paid, or revenge, or punishment to assuage our honor, as it were. We no longer need to have things “made right” vis-a-vis ourself because Jesus has taken care of that, and we are released to live without that burden. In that way, both parties are released and freed to live again, fully in the love of Jesus Christ. That is to be our attitude and our lifestyle of forgiveness; not selective, but all-encompassing.

In living out the above, we will be letting “the peace of God rule” in our hearts (Colossians 3:15), that is, being the “umpire” of how we live in relationship with others both in and outside the community of faith. And in so living, we are to be always thankful (Colossians 3:15 & 16) – thankful that Jesus has freed us to live that way, thankful that it is possible for peace to rule in us, and thankful that we are free to live life with joy. And in this lifestyle, we are constantly to live in God's word which is a lamp unto our feet, sharing that word with others, and engaging in joyful thanks and worship in song (Colossians 3:16). And how do we sum up this lifestyle of forgiveness and the qualities and characteristics of Christlikeness? We sum it up with the following words: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17) What a way to live on earth! And what a way to give Jesus the glory He deserves as our Savior and Lord. Radical forgiveness – Get it! Give it! Live it!